Absent any extraordinary circumstances, none of which are alleged here, plaintiff's suit is unquestionably barred under Pennsylvania law. The Commonwealth generally adheres to the one year limitation. The time is measured from plaintiff's "inception of loss" -- here, September 28, 1981, when she discovered that the rugs were no longer at Zawicki's storage facility. Plaintiff waited until November 9, 1984 to file suit -- more than three years after she discovered her loss.
Plaintiff argues that Pennsylvania courts add an equitable dimension to insurance contracts, which justify an extension of time under the suit limitation clause. Relying upon Brakeman v. Potomac Insurance Co., 472 Pa. 66, 371 A.2d 193 (1977), plaintiff claims that defendant must show how the extension would prejudice its interests. Brakeman is not applicable to this case. In Brakeman the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that even where an insured has breached the notice provisions in an insurance contract, the carrier remains obligated under the contract, absent a showing by the carrier of prejudice to its interests. This equitable requirement is designed to effectuate the purpose of notice provisions; namely, to advise a carrier of the loss in sufficient time to allow an adequate investigation of the claims by the carrier.
In a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, Schreiber v. Pennsylvania Lumberman's Insurance Co., supra, the court refused to apply Brakeman to a suit limitation clause, absent a showing of conduct by the carrier which reasonably induced the insured to wait. Id., 444 A.2d at 649. No such claim has been made or could reasonably be made here.
Plaintiff also argues that, under Pennsylvania law, a showing of the carrier's negligence in failing to properly and fully investigate the insured's claim, or some similar misleading behavior extends the suit limitation clause. See Diamon v. Penn Mutual Fire Insurance Co., 247 Pa. Super. 534, 372 A.2d 1218 (1977). Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the carrier acted in any way that could be construed as an indication that defendant was still investigating plaintiff's claim, or that plaintiff was suspected of any misconduct in the filing of her claim. Therefore, any reliance on Diamon is misplaced. In Diamon, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that a carrier's bad faith accusation of willful misconduct by the insured resulting in a negligently conducted investigation would extend the suit limitation clause. Diamon, supra, 372 A.2d at 1225-28; see also Leone v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 599 F.2d 566, 569 (3d Cir. 1979) (interpreting Diamon's extending provisions).
New Jersey courts have adopted a more liberal approach to one year suit limitation clauses. In Peloso v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co., 56 N.J. 514, 267 A.2d 498 (1970), the court held that the one year suit limitation provision runs from the date of the casualty and is tolled during the period of the carrier's investigation (from the time the insured reports the loss until the carrier formally disclaims). Id. at 501.
Applying Peloso, the clock starts at the inception of the loss; thereafter the time is tolled from the time when the insured reports the loss to the carrier until the carrier completes its investigation by formally notifying the insured. Here, construing the facts most favorably for plaintiff, plaintiff notified defendant on November 11, 1981, forty-four (44) days after she discovered her loss. The time between November 11, 1981 and November 4, 1983 (the date of defendant's last letter denying coverage) tolled the suit limitation clause for almost two years.
Plaintiff filed suit on November 9, 1984, more than one year after the time began to run again. In total, plaintiff waited approximately thirteen-and-a-half months to file suit after inception of the loss (excluding the tolled period). Plaintiff retained her present counsel for more than one year before suit was filed; this counsel received defendant's final letter of November 4, 1983 denying coverage. Plaintiff's counsel offers no explanation for this delay. I therefore feel compelled to dismiss plaintiff's suit as barred by the twelve month suit limitation clause.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 28th day of February, 1985, upon consideration of defendant's motion for summary judgment, and in accordance with the memorandum of this date, it is hereby Ordered that defendant's motion is GRANTED. Judgment is entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiff.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.